The latest effort from Bengalfuel is quiet, slow, and unrelentingly sad. When I’ve been sad, it’s been sad with me, restrained and unassuming, an attentive companion. But when I’ve been happy, it’s still been sad, threatening to bring me down, to remind me of all the defeats in life, the disappointments, the abject failures. This may not have been the duo’s intention; they probably set out to make lovely music and this just happened. But there’s a place for sadness in music, and a purpose for this album. When all seems bleak, when a single word is too much to bear, when loud and obvious are intrusive and abrasive, Roeblin is the album to play. It doesn’t make demands; it just sits, and unspools, and empathizes. It’s not the best choice on a happy, sunny day, but it’s perfect for the desperate and grey.
One can’t hear Roeblin over an air conditioner (unless one has a better unit than I); it’s best for late night or early morning. The album’s tones mimic the frequencies of appliances: low-drifting drones and sullen, whitewashed keys. Nothing much seems to happen, and yet everything happens. The album is static and stable. Something – a faded pattern, a foreground stretch – is always in motion, even if the key remains the same. The album plays tricks on the mind like sorrow and regret, fear and misgiving. Titles such as “The Holding Place”, “Ills” and “Demons” reflect this inner struggle.
Only at the end does the pulse begin to rise, like a weary man finally rising from bed to face down the black dog of depression. This ending is not inevitable, but it remains possible. A feeling of tentative hope arises, fragile, but not yet established. The encouragement of the final track is subtle, gentle, realistic: a whisper rather than a shout, the only cheer a depressed person will hear without curling into a ball. Bengalfuel seems to be saying, we understand; we’ve been there too. Now take just one step. One step. The kindness of this call is the album’s authenticity. (Richard Allen)